Porsche 928 ‘Nebula’ SXSW art car will make you nostalgic for Y2K

Once believed by Porsche engineers to be the replacement for the 911, the front-engined 928’s life was cut tragically short in 1995. But what if it lived on? The Porsche “Nebula” art car imagines what the 928 might have looked like by the end of the decade, and the end of the 20th century.

The car is making its first public appearance at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, this week. It was created by artists Daniel Arsham and Khyzyl Saleem, and is filled with sweet Y2K-era details. Having lived through that era as sentient adults, most of us at Autoblog didn’t even realize one could feel nostalgia for a time that doesn’t seem all that long ago. 

Take one look at the Nebula’s details though, and the memories come flooding back. In particular, the circles blobbing into each other like a cell in mitosis was a hallmark of the dawning dot-com age. The shape can be seen in the front bumper as a fog light and turn signal combo, and as lower air intakes. Look closely at the fog lamps and you’ll notice a dot-gradient pattern darkening the edges. The aesthetic is totally reminiscent of electronics like the iMac G3 or Apple eMate 300 laptop.

The Y2K cues extend to color as well, which is sort of a metallic mauve that was popular at the time. The 928’s taillights get the cytokinesis treatment too, which seem to fit well with its rotund rear. Instead of the standard Porsche sans-serif typeface across the back, the word “Nebula” is written in a retro-futuristic font that evokes Razor scooters and turn-of-the-century video games. The Nebula’s wheels recall the 1989 Panamericana concept that prefaced the 993, but also the Antera 141 that seemed to be in many “wheel warehouse” magazine ads back in the day.

Inside, the dividing nucleus theme continues onto the door speakers and the steering wheel. While not practical, it’s certainly unique looking and fits with the rest of the car. and is paired with a blobject shift knob.

Even things that we’re not fans of aesthetically can be described as period correct for the era. The deep purple suede covering much of the interior seems excessive, but the color is not without precedent. The massive wing on the rear looks questionable, but at the time cars like the Toyota Supra and Mitsubishi 3000GT came with sky-high spoilers straight from the factory. 

Y2K was almost 25 years ago, which means in most states if it were a car it would qualify for historic plates soon and be federally legal to import. While car design at the time tends to be described in not-so-flattering terms like “bar of soap,” the right combination of cues can evoke a strong wistfulness in enthusiasts of a certain age.

“Nebula” means a cloud of dust in outer space and sounds cool enough to be the name of a sports car. But in Latin it means “cloud” or “mist” and is also the root of the world “nebulous,” which means vague or shapeless. That seems to be the perfect description of the organic shapes that dominated car design around the year 2000. As we would’ve said back then, “That’s tight.”

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